Wednesday, December 2, 2015

How I use Gmail as a Freelancer

I am what many people would call the ideal writer. By that, I mean a reclusive cave dweller who may or may not decide to put on pants. I'd like to think that Hemingway would be proud...and that he would live in the middle of nowhere with an exquisite (although expensive) Internet connection that would enable him to write and shake his fist at the monstrosities of this world.

My reclusiveness is coupled with extreme introversion. It literally wears me out to be around people. I need alone time to recharge. I loved teaching college. I loved the idea behind being a paralegal (the law office? Not always so much). So, let's just say that my aversion to society (for numerous reasons) has meant an intense white-hot love affair with technology.

Yet...I also hate technology. I don't hate all technology.. I hate the urgency that it causes many of us to feel. I hate the way it makes us feel like slaves when in reality it is supposed to help us. I use Gmail. It's on my phone. It's on my Kindle. I access it directly from my laptop. I'm a freelancer. Gmail is an integral part of my business. I have clients around the world. It's much cheaper to rely on email than phone calls (and I hate talking on the phone). I also hate the constant notification of email. Used to be that the pinging sound on my phone was music to my ears. It meant business of some sort. Now? It's a distraction.

Okay, it was a distraction...until I screwed up Gmail on my phone...or at least...I thought I screwed it up. Turns out, I freed myself and made Gmail easier and more convenient for me to use as a freelancer. Here's what happened...

I had some notification on my phone. I'll be honest...for a writer, I sometimes read too fast. This time, I didn't read it at all. I can only presume now that it said, "Hi. I'm turning off your email notifications. It'll drive you bonkers for a day, but then you'll have an epiphany and then learn another amazing Gmail features, okay?" I clicked 'Okay' or 'Yes' or something. Hell, I don't know. I probably thought it needed permission to update. I was annoyed because it had gone off.

Then...silence. Later that night, I wondered why I hadn't heard my email notification tone...for hours. I was worried. I grabbed my phone and had to manually refresh my email. Yet, there was still no noise. Then I realized that whatever I had clicked earlier wasn't an update - it was to turn off automatic download of my email and the notifications. At first, I was pissed. I really do have a love-hate relationship with technology.

I couldn't figure out how to "fix it." I thought that I'd have to wait until my oldest son could fix it for me. Disgusted, I went to bed.

The next day I got into Gmail on my laptop. I was looking for a particular client email that I knew had a response that I hadn't read. Usually, I just star items that need follow up. Sometimes, I'll leave it unread just in case I overlook the star. I thought, "This is bullshit. There's gotta be an easier way." I like a clean inbox. I like to keep my email trash emptied. I'm one of THOSE types. I can't help it.

Sure enough, there was a better way. You can arrange your email to keep all unread emails together and all read emails together. Now I don't have to go sifting through email to find what I want. I can just leave it unread and it stays toward the top of my inbox. Here's the official Google Help file to do it.

So, if you're a freelancer and you want to get more done and feel like you have more control over your inbox, turn off the notifications and arrange your email for the unread messages to always be at the top. You'll stop jumping every time your email goes off. You can check it at set times throughout your day. And you'll find what you're looking for a lot faster.

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